In his foreword to Patrick Madrid's splendid book, fellow convert and former Evangelical Protestant pastor Jeff Cavins tells of his and his wife's conversion to the Catholic Church after he was profoundly moved by Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver: "I knew that when I saw Pope John Paul II at Mile High Stadium, I was witnessing the manifestation of Christ's decision to lead and guide me to the truth." That truth, as Madrid demonstrates with great clarity and detail, involves Jesus Christ's appointing the fisherman Simon Peter as the visible head of His Church. His successors, the Bishops of Rome, would engage in their Petrine ministry as occupants of a divine institution – the papacy – and this regardless of individual popes' vulnerability to sin and human weakness.
For Madrid, and indeed every believing Catholic, a careful and objective study of the history of the Church will demonstrate to any impartial observer that "the Lord has kept His promise to be with the Church always, and this promise has been kept, par excellence, in the office of the papacy" (p. 19). Our author shows great sympathy for and understanding of the mentality of the far too many non-Catholics who "labor under the twin burden of ignorance and an unwillingness to be shown the truth, heirs of generations-old anti-Catholicism handed down from family, friends, social circles, and over 200 years of subtle American Protestant propaganda."
The early chapters are devoted to a thorough study of the scriptural evidence of Christ's establishment of the primacy of Peter among and over his fellow Apostles, and the transmission of that supreme authority in the Church to the Roman Pontiffs sitting on the "Cathedra Petri" (the Chair of Peter) as the Bishops of Rome. Then, in remaining chapters, in a systematic and trenchant manner, he exposes thirty myths and misconceptions about the papacy that are incessantly repeated "in the media, among non-Catholics and misguided Catholics, and in popular culture."
"Pope Fiction" refutes in a concise and compelling fashion the stale accusations against the popes that have long been the standard arsenal of non-Catholic polemicists. History has been ransacked for any dark whisperings and calumnies, blatant lies and sophisms, and imagined horrors of past papal oppression, in order to "disprove" Our Lord's creation of papal supremacy and infallibility as the guarantee for the Church's indefectibility in faith and morals. Calmly and fairly, Madrid examines the "Case Against Catholicism" built upon allegations against the bad popes, on the Legend of Pope Joan, on charges of heresy against Popes Liberius, Vigilius, and Honorius, and on blaming the popes for the evils of slavery, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust. Some detractors of the popes have not failed to stoop to forgery in publicizing an alleged speech at Vatican I by the famous Croatian Bishop Strossmayer that denied papal primacy and infallibility! That forgery still circulates today to fuel the appetites of those intent on exposing the errors and wickedness of "popery and Romanism."
There are other fascinating rebuttals provided, as in Madrid's comments on the incredible assertions of today's "sedevacantist" schismatics. There remains a sense of something quite pathological – if not diabolical – in the virulence of various contemporary attacks on the papacy.
Madrid devotes much space in dealing with the famous rebuke of Peter by Paul found in Galatians 2. His explanation of the incident conforms to that of many Fathers and doctors of the Church who never saw in Paul's action a denial of Peter's primacy of authority among the Apostles. However, it is the suggestion of this reviewer that contemporary Catholic writers might reexamine the contention of a number of past Catholic apologists that the "Cephas" rebuked by Paul could not possibly have been the Apostle Peter, but rather one of the 72 disciples. As a 19th-century Jesuit writer noted: "The constant tradition of a Cephas, distinct from St. Peter, has never perished in the Church" (Fr. Pujol). Similarly, it is perhaps a preconceived idea to regard the "James and Cephas and John" of Galatians 2:7-14 as the three noted Apostles, rather than three other well-known Judaizers who were disrupting the Christian communities.
Patrick Madrid's book is clearly a labor of love. It is an impressive apologia for the papacy that is calculated to do much good as a handy resource volume for the average Catholic to counter the allegaitons that are often raised to obscure the true hierarchical nature of the Church Christ established.
The "Rock of Peter," Madrid observes, may be "the thing that seems most distasteful to so many about the Catholic Church," but it is, in fact, "the answer to their most urgent problems." "Pope Fiction" will prove eminently useful not only for Protestants who still imagine that the pure, genuine Christianity of Christ and the Gospels was essentially altered by "Romanists," but also for those Eastern Orthodox who continue to view the papacy through the lens of Dostoyevsky's grim "Grand Inquisitor."